Today, Sen. Vincent Sheheen released his plan of action to rebuild roads and bridges in South Carolina. The plan lays out a responsible course of action to improve safety and efficiency of the state's infrastructure immediately and for the long term.
Sen. Sheheen's plan centers around four key components that will increase accountability and lead the state to responsibly invest in infrastructure without having to raise the gas tax: adopt a Fix it First approach to focus on repairing roads before building new ones; reorganize the Department of Transportation to save money, improve accountability, and be more efficient in choosing what gets repaired; issue bonds for an immediate one-time infusion of money to get investments started and create jobs; each year, automatically dedicate five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to rebuilding our roads.
This plan of action comes after three years of total neglect to South Carolina's roads and bridges by Nikki Haley that have left only 15 percent of South Carolina's roads listed as "in good condition," left thousands of bridges so unsafe that they are classified as "functionally obsolete," and made the state's rural roads the most dangerous in the country according to a new study. The Governor has refused to release a plan on roads until after November's election.
Honest Leadership & Real Accountability to Rebuild SC Road & Bridges
Under Nikki Haley's administration, South Carolina's roads, bridges, rail lines, and waterways are in desperate need of repair after years of neglect.
South Carolina had the fifth highest rate of traffic fatalities in the country, according to the US Census. Our rural roads are the deadliest rural roads in the nation, according to a new report released this month. In fact, only 15 percent of our roads are classified as "in good condition" with thousands of our bridges so unsafe that they are classified as "functionally obsolete."
South Carolina's families, businesses and taxpayers in general deserve so much better from their government. South Carolina needs honest leadership and real accountability to responsibly fix the roads and bridges -- we need a Governor who will make infrastructure a priority.
As a small business owner, and an attorney who has helped families and small businesses grow and succeed, Vincent understands that economic activity depends on a good and viable transportation system. Having reliable roads and bridges is vital to growing the economy from within and attracting companies from out of state. Similarly, as the father of three boys and a native South Carolinian, Vincent knows how imperative it is for families to have safe roads and bridges. Taxpaying citizens should not have to fear for their safety while driving down a road in their town or across a bridge in their community. And we shouldn't be embarrassed when visitors come to our state by our dreadful highways.
Adopt a "Fix It First" Approach
South Carolina has the nation's fourth largest state-maintained transportation network. Additions place an increased burden on an already overburdened maintenance program. If we can't afford to maintain roads we already have, how can we afford to build new ones? It's time for honest leadership and a common-sense approach where we fix our roads first.
Vincent's plan of action
*Issue an executive order to require the Department of Transportation to adopt the Fix it First rule he has promoted in the Senate.
*Appoint a Transportation Director to be accountable and use the limited resources to secure the safety of the existing roads.
*Set benchmarks on Fix-It-First projects to tackle our most crumbling roads first. Hold the DOT accountable to those benchmarks and provide monthly updates on projects to improve transparency.
Transform how we pay to maintain our roads & bridges.
Currently South Carolina is heavily reliant on the gas tax, which generates about $500 million per year and accounts for 71 percent of all state highway funding. But the gas tax is a declining source of revenue as cars become more fuel efficient. Increasing the gas tax is not going to solve our transportation funding crisis. To succeed, the state must diversify funding and weave together sources to responsibly invest over the long-term. Because of historic underinvestment in our roads we need to create an additional dedicated funding source and issue bonds to jumpstart needed investments.
Vincent's plan of action:
-Issue bonds to fund long-term investment.
--The use of infrastructure is enjoyed by generations of our citizens. Just like a family takes out a responsible mortgage to buy a house for their long-term success, bonding is a responsible way to invest over multiple years in the future that will help families and businesses alike. The use of bonds would allow the state to inject a tremendous one-time infusion of funds needed to bring our roads up to standards while using other sources of revenue to maintain their integrity.
-Dedicate five percent of General Fund revenue for roads.
--As a state, we must decide that road funding is such a priority to deserve a portion of general tax revenue -- especially surplus revenue. As governor, Vincent would put forth a budget to phase in the automatic dedication of five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to Department of Transportation to repair our roads and bridges.
-Investigate other sources of revenue.
--Honest leadership means bringing people together and considering many new ideas while building a bipartisan coalition to move forward and deliver results. As Governor, Vincent will explore potential revenue sources to pay for the repair of roads and bridges, including:
---Lease rest areas to private businesses to establish gas and food sales at rest stops and generate new revenue.
---Investigate an out-of-state truck tax to gather funds from those out-of-state who use our roads but don't pay anything to maintain them. This will generate funds and make South Carolina more competitive with other states' approaches.
Make the Department of Transportation more accountable
People expect and deserve a government that works and works well -- and when it doesn't, they deserve real accountability. South Carolina can fund its priorities by cracking down on waste, mismanagement, and incompetence to put politics aside and focus on getting results.
Vincent's plan of action:
*Restructure of the state Department of Transportation to make the director answer directly to the governor
*Abolish the DOT Commission to allow the legislature and governor to manage and set road funding and policy and to increase accountability.
*Increase oversight from the legislature so that with new leadership we could have real accountability.
*Combine the State Infrastructure Bank with the Department of Transportation to provide a consolidated and accountable approach to road improvements and maintenance.